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The sect's white legacy

chandigarh Updated: Dec 15, 2012 10:32 IST
Prabhjit Singh

White is the colour of purity. And of the Namdharis too.

For decades, the Namdharis' insistence on not wearing any other colour kept them out of the Indian hockey team despite being the national champions.

It was in 1992 that left-out Didar Singh became the first member from the community to play for the Indian team in the official blue outfit.

The sect has carried the "white legacy" ever since it was instituted under the Kuka Movement at the historic congregation on April 14, 1857. The movement was launched by the sect's guru, Bhai Ram Singh, at Bhaini village, presently Bhaini Sahib, headquarters of the sect, in Ludhiana district.

Besides whiteness, the key aspects that differentiate Namdharis from mainstream Sikhs include strict vegetarianism, reading and preaching Adi Granth as well as Dasam Granth, and chanting of religious hymns in ecstasy ('kuk', from which the name 'Kuka' is derived).

It was the Kuka Sikhs who launched the 'Khaddar' (Khadi) movement in the 1860s as part of their campaign against the British rule.

Many of the Kuka Sikh groups took to an armed struggle against the British; they looted a garrison at Malerkotla in 1871. Caught on January 15, 1872, 68 of them were executed without any trial. They were tied to cannons and blown apart.

Bhai Ram Singh was exiled out of Punjab to Rangoon for nearly 14 years. He was released in November 1885.

Steeped in history
Prior to Bhaini Sahib, Hazro in Rawalpindi (Pakistan) was the centre of learning for Sikhs believing in the Bhakti movement under the guidance of Baba Balak Singh (1785-1862).

Balak Singh, who became the first Namdhari leader in 1812, passed on his legacy as the "living guru" of the Namdharis to his disciple, Bhai Ram Singh (1816-1885). The latter was succeeded by Hari Singh (1819-1906), who passed on the leadership to Partap Singh (1890-1959). It was in 1959 that Satguru Jagjit Singh took over as the head of the sect.